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2 8 10 12 An Interview With Of Monsters And Men

Ásgeir’s In The Silence

Volenska / Hopelandic

New Band - Kaleo

An Interview With



sets in as soon as you hear Of Monsters and Men. Hearing the Icelandic six-piece’s name brings about memories of reading fairytales and telling stories growing up. Essentially, the band—composed of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, singer/guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson and piano/ accordion player Árni Guðjónsson— are dreamers who are trying to bring that feeling back to

By Ilana Kaplan

life. The self-described folk-indie band is truly inspired by storytelling and making sure that everyone who listens comes up with their own interpretations to their stories. Of Monsters and Men’s song, “Little Talks,” is a catchy, gorgeous folk song with a surprising old-school ska twist. It’s as if The Specials found love with Fanfarlo and Nada Surf. Currently, the band has released their Into the Woods EP, and it won’t be too long until Of Monsters and Men will be releasing their debut LP. We should be seeing it in the spring. Additionally, the band will be going on an American tour (so far, they have only played two shows in New York). Their first stop in the US will be in March for SXSW, and they are stoked to be touring outside of Iceland. It’s pretty apparent that Of Monsters and Men won’t be scared away from the music world anytime soon. We caught up with singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir on the art of storytelling, connecting with their listeners and making their own versions of fairytales.

Clockwise from top left: Árni Guðjónsson, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Brynjar Leifsson, Ragnar þórhallsson, Kristján Páll Kristjánsson, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson


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ON BECOMING OF MONSTERS AND MEN: About two years ago. It used to be me playing a solo act called, Songbird. I got Brynjar, the guitar player, to play with me, because we went to high school together. Then I met Raggi, the singer. We decided to form a band just before Músiktilraunir, an annual battle of the bands. That’s when we added the rest of the guys.

inspiration from being there. The songs that we write at a particular time, it’s what’s going on at that moment.

THE MAGICAL WORLD OF IDEAS: It just kind of came. We were playing around with some ideas. Radke came up with the name. It just kind of sounded well, I think. We connect the name to some of our lyrics and what we try to accomplish with the music. Others are often like, kind of not fairytales, but stories. We try to create stories with our songs, music and lyrics. It’s more systematic... something that could be connected with that.

THE ART OF PERFORMANCE: I would love to share the stage with Bon Iver sometime. Project Gangs, I would love to see that at work. I would love to play a show. All of those bands I just mentioned. All of that.

ON LISTENING TO BON IVER AND THE BEAUTIFUL INSPIRATION OF WINTER: There’s a big difference with all of us. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Bon Iver. He’s inspired me a lot. The stuff that we’re working on now is probably a little winterish. There’s heavy snow right now. When we were writing, some of our stuff we went up to the countryside. There was heavy snow and winter. We got a lot of

ON DRAWING FROM EVERYWHERE AND IN BETWEEN: I like Arcade Fire. I’ve actually been listening a lot to Feist lately. I’m just kind of speaking for myself because I know we draw a lot of different inspirations.

BROADENING THEIR HORIZONS: The release date (for the LP) is still not 100 percent, but it’s in the spring. We played in New York two times. We played two shows in New York. We’re going on tour in March. It’s in March. We’re playing SXSW. I don’t know the specifics of the tour, but yeah, we’re playing SXSW festival and are playing in Canada. THE REAL “LITTLE TALKS”: Okay. “Little Talks” is... How we usually make our lyrics is, Raggi and I, sometimes we come up with stories or situations. That one is about a relationship. Sometimes we haven’t wanted to give too much away. We like people to Of Monsters And Men


read their own things in the lyrics. I guess I could share it. It’s about a couple and the husband passed away and it’s from the conversation between the two of them. We don’t know if she’s going crazy or if someone’s actually there. We’ve kind of been inspired by people that lived in my house. This old couple that lived there for 30 years. The woman passed away, so it was kind of different. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MUSIC AND LISTENERS: I don’t know. We love hearing when people connect with our music and the lyrics and find their own meanings. Those are fun for us to hear. We just want people to have fun with us and hopefully get inspired themselves. MONSTERS AND MEN CARRYING ON: Hopefully just touring and playing and making more records. Hopefully doing this. It’s a new thing for us. It’s weird for us... not many Icelandic bands get to tour a lot outside of Iceland, so that alone is just mind-blowing for us. It’s still kind of new to us. We’re just kind of getting used to it. I just think and hope that we’ll still be doing this.


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“ We try to

create stories with our songs, music, and lyrics.”

þórhallsson, Leifsson, and Hilmarsdóttir

In The Silence


celandic singer-songwriter Ásgeir Trausti is preparing to release his much-anticipated next album, In the Silence, on January 27, 2014 - and it’s already enjoying a warm reception.

Critics are calling Ásgeir, who happens to be one of Iceland Naturally’s A Taste of Iceland / Reykjavik Calling alum, “Iceland’s biggest music export since Bjork.” The ‘folktronica’ artist won four awards at the 2012 Icelandic Music Awards, including Album of the Year, Best Newcomer, Public Choice Award and’s Online Achievement Award. The 20-year old isn’t slowing down anytime soon, either; he is currently touring in Europe in preparation for the release of his new album.

Get a first taste of In the Silence by checking out the music video for the album’s first single, “King and Cross.” Read on for a full review of Ásgeir’s new album from Iceland, Defrosted:


sgeir has had some help with In the Silence. Iceland’s latest adopted son, John Grant, helped translate the albums lyrics into English. Ásgeir’s 72-year-old father helped write some of the lyrics. Of Monsters and Men helped raise his profile by taking him on tour. That said, Ásgeir remains the star of the show here. In the Silence, it has been well reported is the English language rehash of Dýrð í dauðaþögn, the Icelandic version that outsold Björk and Sigur Rós—it’s the highest selling debut in Iceland—and spent a hefty ten weeks atop the Icelandic charts. It would be easy, then, to get washed away in the hype, and there is certainly plenty of that around this album. Ásgeir—full name Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson—has produced a wonderful little album here. I suppose it might be pigeonholed ‘folktronica,’ and invite comparisons with Bon Iver, or Jóse González, or even James Vincent McMorrow, but it has something else too. Yes, it’s gentle, softly beautiful stuff, but Ásgeir sings his falsetto with such emotion that it sounds personal, like a love

letter written just to you. This is not just folktronica by numbers. I suspect it’s had a suitable gloss added since its original version. The production here is expertly handled. Everything sounds perfectly balanced, and has layering that neatly wraps around Ásgeir’s vocals. ‘Higher’ is a sweet introduction to what is about to come, first single ‘King and Cross’ builds to an almost dance-y crescendo and will stick in your head for days. ‘Torrent’ adds some gravitas to proceedings, whilst ‘Going Home’ sounds like a sweet hymn, with a surprising horn section. ‘Head In The Snow’ starts with rattling percussion that is both fresh and inventive, and saves the song from being just another finger plucking standard. ‘In Harmony’ breaks out an impromptu choral backing that just soars. All in all, this is a wonderful album, that deserves all the credit it’s been getting. For a guy in his 20s, from the sleepy hamlet of Laugarbakki in Northwest Iceland, Ásgeir might just have the world at his feet. Then he might just need all the help he can get. - By Edward Hancox In The Silence


Vonlenska/ Hopelandic Language of Sigur R贸s


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Vonlenska is the non-literal language that forms the unintelligible lyrics sung by the band on some songs, in particular by Jónsi. It is also commonly known by the English translation of its name, Hopelandic. It takes its name from “Von”, a song on Sigur Rós’s debut album Von where it was first used. However, not all Sigur Rós songs are in Hopelandic; many are sung in Icelandic. Vonlenska has no fixed syntax and differs from constructed languages that can be used for communication. It focuses entirely on the sounds of language; it lacks grammar, meaning, and even distinct words. Instead, it consists of emotive non-lexical vocables and phonemes; in effect, Vonlenska uses the melodic and rhythmic elements of singing without the conceptual content of language. In this way, it is similar to the use of scat singing in vocal jazz. The band’s website describes it as “a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music”; it is similar in concept to the ‘nonsense’ language often used by Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser in the 1980s and 1990s or by Icelandic singer Björk. Most of the syllable strings sung by Jónsi are repeated many times throughout each song, and in the case of ( ), throughout the whole album.

Volenska / Hopelandic


By Zoë Howe


here has been a lot of buzz surrounding a new band from Iceland called Kaleo. Their groove-laden mix of indie and retro rock n’ roll is quite different from other Icelandic export bands that are known for more chilled and atmospheric sound. Dispite their young age the members grew up together and have been playing since they were kids forming a rare connection. The band is just a year old as they performed their first gig at an off venue show at


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Iceland Airwaves 2012. Since then they have played all over Iceland and had great success in Icelandic radio. Their version of the Icelandic classic “Vor í Vaglaskógi” hit number one in Iceland and is the most played Icelandic song of 2013, hitting the charts on almost every radio station in Iceland. Their other singles “Pour sugar on me”, “Rock n’ Roller” and “Glass house” have also been charted and played a lot. The newest singles “Automobile” and “Broken Bones” are

turning heads. “Automobile” beeing there second official number one in Iceland. They played the main stage on Reykjavik Culture night, but thats the biggest single concert in Iceland. Around 40.000 people showed up and over 100.000 heard the concert in the radio or TV in a nation of 300.000. They signed a contract with Icelandic record lable “Sena” and there first album “Kaleo” came out last month. The album contains 11 tracks and is sitting at number 2 on the most sold record chart in Iceland. There contract with Sena is only for Iceland so they are looking for a label for the international market. They were busy at the last Iceland Airwaves festival playing 4 concerts including a gig at the world famous blue lagoon. Their fan base is growing every day with back to back packed concerts and a lot of radio air play but how are people outside of Iceland feeling this new band? In the UK they have already made an impression getting a few radio plays. On UK’s Absolute Radio following success on the unsigned band review and other smaller stations have also given “Rock n Roller” a spin. This summer they are opening up for the Pixies in Iceland and also planing there first gigs outside of Iceland.

Kaleo performing at Slippbarrin in Reykjavik



Edited by Bryn Olason, 2014


Current Icelandic Music (Edited by Bryn Olason)